Story: Josh Kozelj
Photos: Christian J. Stewart
The Corvallis Knights used a two-out ninth inning rally to collect their sixth consecutive victory, and third one-run victory of the season over the Victoria HarbourCats Wednesday night, in a nail-biting 3-2 game at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park.
Coming into tonight’s game, the HarbourCats had dropped five straight games to Corvallis, including a three-game sweep at Goss Stadium on the campus of Oregon State a mere 10 days ago and last season, the final two games of the West Coast League Championship.
Claire Eccles is spending her last few games with the HarbourCats this week as she prepares for her stint with the Canadian National Women’s Team (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Gunnar Friend, a Junior out of Avila University in Kansas City, MO, would be tasked to snap that streak and give even more rest to a bullpen that was heavily taxed in two extra innings games in Cowlitz before the All-Star break.
Friend fulfilled his job on the evening, holding the reigning back-to-back WCL league champions to just one hit in four solid innings on the hill.
On the opposing mound, Cal Poly Pomona native Connor Redmond would nearly earn his first quality start of the season, racking up five strikeouts in 5 2/3 strong innings.
Nick Plaia finally got to Redmond in the third, jumpstarting the HarbourCats offence with a lead-off solo home run to draw first blood for Victoria.
Jack Smith would double in the second inning to give the HarbourCats an early scoring opportunity (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
However, the five-time WCL league champions would show why they are one of the prominent teams in the league, tying the game in the top half of the sixth behind some costly HarbourCat blunders in the field.
Chad Stevens started the inning with a bloop single that landed in between three HarbourCats in shallow right field, and would advance to third off a couple of wild pitches from Ping-Chun Ho pitching in relief of Friend. Chandler Anderson would then collect his 17th RBI of the season with a single in the next at-bat to score Stevens.
Nick Plaia (left) is congratulated by Hunter Vansau (right) after Plaia’s third inning home run gave the HarbourCats a 1-0 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Coming through the third time in the order, the HarbourCats would chase Redmond in the sixth, but strand a couple of runners on base to keep the game deadlocked at one.
Meanwhile back on the bump, Ho would settle in after giving up the tying run in the sixth, retiring six straight Knight batters at one point and collecting two strikeouts in three full innings of relief.
The HarbourCats would threaten with men on second in both the seventh and eighth, but Corvallis reliever Abbott Haffar would escape the jams unscathed. Haffar would collect his second of three strikeouts to end the seventh and used a leaping catch from his second baseman in the eighth to closeout the eighth.
In the top half of the ninth, Nathan Walker now pitching for Victoria, would collect two quick outs to start the frame, but then proceeded to give up a pair of hits to give Corvallis their first lead of the night.
Matt Clayton would be the only HarbourCat with a two-hit night Wednesday, hitting a pair of singles (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Zak Taylor broke the tie with a RBI double, and Beau Philip would double the Knights lead to two, courtesy of a Walker wild pitch.
Haffar’s outing would stretch into the ninth, but after collecting a lead-off strikeout, he would be pulled after giving up a solo pinch-hit home run to Dustin Demeter. The blast pulled the HarbourCats to within one, but despite walking the bases loaded, Knights’ closer Kolby Somers would collect the final out to end the comeback bid.
With the loss, the HarbourCats fell to 4-6 in the Second Half standings and to 18-19 overall on the season, while Corvallis climbed to a South Division leading 6-2 on the back half of the schedule.
HarbourCats starter Mason Shaw will counter Cameron Haskell tomorrow evening at 6:35, as Victoria will look to force a rubber-match in the series finale Thursday.